Lobster Trap Warp Climbing is a popular sport at Matinicus. Photo by Nat Warren-White
Island Bakery: Eva Murray runs the island’s bakery; she is a multitalented woman who also serves as Town Clerk, firefighter, EMT, author, and maker of iron fireplace tools. Her breads, cinnamon rolls, blueberry pies, whoopie pies, ice cream sandwich cookies, and delicious popsicles made from wild island fruits are all yummy treats! To find her shop, walk the main road from the harbor until it ends, turn left and walk past the tiny library, school, and post office until you come to the graveyard. Then turn left again and walk to the bakery’s door. Eva is a regular contributor to Downeast Magazine and the Working Waterfront newspaper, and other Maine periodicals. She has written several books, including Well Out to Sea, Year-Round on Matinicus Island, which offers a colorful, honest, and insightful look at life on this beautiful and often bleak Maine outpost.
The Fisherman’s Wife: Up the road from the harbor, you’ll see signs pointing to The Fisherman’s Wife. This wonderful shop has island crafts and art, as well as T-shirts and books about the island. Artist Donna Rogers runs it and offers some of her work and her daughter’s; you can also ask her where to buy lobsters. Take the road on the left as the sign points, and take another left to her in-home shop. CAUTION: The shop may be closed in 2022, but if not, it’s worth a visit and your consideration for support.
Library and Post Office: To reach the Library and nearby post office, take the road from the wharf until it ends and turn left. Both buildings will be on your left as you wander the dirt road. You can mail a postcard or letter from this island outpost, or buy stamps to help them survive. The library offers free WiFi and has a fun selection of books. Better yet, bring some books to leave behind.
Graveyard: The perfect place to enjoy your treat from the bakery. Sit on a bench or browse some of the unique headstones of island fishermen spanning three centuries.
Church: The island’s one church does offer services in summer. However, it is open most days and is a beautiful example of an out-island chapel built in 1906. Walking the main road from the harbor to the end and turning right will take you to the church.
Transportation: The state ferry service runs only four times per month in the summer and once a month in the winter. The ferry trip from Rockland takes about 2 hours.
Penobscot Island Air runs the plane service, and it is quick and easy. Their safety record is pretty good! You can also arrange a special charter ride on a local lobster boat. Needless to say, the best way to arrive at Matinicus is via your own boat.
Like other offshore islands on the Maine coast, Matinicus is visited regularly by the SUNBEAM. This Maine Seacoast Mission vessel brings telemedical service offering virtual doctors’ visits and training/consultation in elder care, among other important benefits. The SUNBEAM also offers religious service and support in special times of need. The Seacoast Mission has played a vital role in supporting the Matinicus and other island populations since 1905.
Another Nearby Island: You will never forget a visit to Matinicus or Criehaven (the other name for Ragged Island, “Racketash” to the Native Americans, and “Ragged Ass” to the Brits), which lies 7.5 miles south of Matinicus. A few lobstermen and families live on Criehaven in the summer, but no one lives there year-round. The harbor on Criehaven is tiny. There is no place to anchor. If you want to stop there and go ashore, pick up a mooring near the harbor entrance and wait until a fisherman appears; then ask for permission and local knowledge regarding depth and swinging room. Criehaven Harbor is protected from all but the north and northwest.
Further offshore, yet again, is Matinicus Rock. The lighthouse on the rock marks the furthest offshore entrance to Penobscot Bay and is a good waypoint to aim for when arriving from the north or south after a long passage. If you swing by and there is any visibility (read – “no fog”), you may be lucky.
Birding: In July and up until mid-August, the best birding on the coast of Maine is at Matinicus Rock. The rock is really an island about 4/10 of a mile long and located about five miles to seaward of Matinicus Island. The best time is early morning when the birds are active. Leave Matinicus before breakfast and head to the rock to see puffins, gannets, razorbills, guillemots, shearwaters, and storm petrels abound! Simply fantastic! You can learn more about the island on National Audubon’s Project Puffin website.
Hiking & Beaches: Unlike Monhegan and Isle au Haut, there are no cliff walks or mountains to climb on Matinicus. Also, very few people “from away.” The highest point on the island measures just 30 feet. The entire island covers only 2.3 square miles, 3/4-mile wide and 2 miles long. There are lovely walking trails through the woods and along the shore. The island is flat, so the hiking is not taxing. There are two lovely white sand beaches, Markey’s and South Sandy. Both are worth visiting and offer easy access to swimming — if you can stand the cold water!
Photo below — one of the beaches at Matincus by Nat Warren-White